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Acne caused by dairy

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‘Please no, not dairy, anything but dairy. I just can’t give up cheese’ is the most rational response when someone throws out the old favourite ‘Y’know, dairy isreallybad for your acne’. But is there anything to back up these – quite frankly distressing – claims, or is it just a myth? Let’s take a look and see if it really could help your skin if you put away the milk and laid of the chocolate and cheese.

IGF-1. What is it? What does it do?

Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 doesn’t sound too exciting we know. But it is important to understand what it is, especially if you suffer from acne prone skin. IGF-1 is main reason dairy causes acne. Essentially, it’s a growth hormone, and we all have it. But if you have hormonal or inflammatory acne, you probably have a bit more of it than the average person. High levels of IGF-1 can knock your hormones off balance and can trigger the overproduction of oil – creating an environment in which acne thrives.

Dairy products – eggs, milk, cheese etc – cause a spike in IGF-1. For people who don’t suffer from acne, this isn’t too much of a problem. But if you’re IGF-1 levels are already high, and your skin is prone to acne, a spike in its production is likely to result in an outbreak.

And it’s a vicious cycle. The initial spike in IGF-1 brought about by dairy consumption causes our bodies to create more insulin, which triggers the production of even more IGF-1. Dairy also causes your body to produce more sebum, whilst making it harder for you to shed dead skin cells. This means pores can become blocked and clog easily, leading to whiteheads, blackheads and painful cystic acne (those nasty, sore, under the skin spots).

Do you need to give up dairy entirely?

We hate to say it, but completely giving up dairy could be a great way to see a drastic improvement in your skin. But it’s not as horrifying a switch as you might think. We live in a world where dairy substitutes are readily available. Your favourite coffee shops will all have various dairy-free alternatives to cow’s milk. Try soy, almond, coconut or oat milk on your cereal. Swap out butter for an olive oil spread, and if you haven’t tried coconut yoghurt with some granola and fresh fruit then you need to elevate your snack game. There’s even dairy free cheese (We’ll be honest, it’s not the same, but it’s not bad!).

We urge you to try it out for a few weeks and see if you notice a change in your skin. After all, surely it’s worth cutting down on the cheese if it means healthier skin and hopefully a little boost in confidence?

Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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